NEWPORT BEACH (AP) – A judge has found that an Orange County district attorney violated the state’s new racial justice law in his discussions of a Black man who was sentenced to life without parole in a double murder case.
Jamon Buggs was sentenced Friday in the 2019 killings of a man and woman in Newport Beach.
The sentencing came after Judge Gregg L. Prickett found that Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer violated a state law aimed at ensuring racial justice for defendants in a meeting about whether to seek the death penalty for Buggs. Prickett said an appropriate remedy would have been to take the death penalty off the table for Buggs, but Spitzer had already previously decided not to seek it.
The issue came to light earlier this year when an internal memo by a former prosecutor raised questions about a meeting on the Buggs case during which Spitzer asked about the race of Buggs’ previous girlfriends.
Spitzer said race was an issue because authorities suspect Buggs targeted the man because he mistakenly believed he was dating Buggs’ white ex-girlfriend. Spitzer said he turned over information about the conversation to the judge as a precaution though he didn’t believe California’s new law – which bars authorities from seeking a conviction or sentence based on race – required it.
Denise Gragg, one of Buggs’ attorneys, raised concerns in court Friday of potential bias in the case.
“If you can’t even recognize that is a bias, how can you assure yourself or us that there were not decisions made in this case or not made in this case that were influenced by that bias?” she said.
Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney’s office, said the judge found that Buggs was treated fairly throughout the case.
“District Attorney Spitzer asked for life without the possibility of parole and that’s exactly the sentence the defendant was given by the judge,” she said. “Justice was served.”
Categories: Courts & Law